Buying that big machine

11. April 2018 10:21

by Matt Krig - Northland Woodoworks

Congratulations! You made the decision to buy a new machine and have taken an important first step. However, regardless of whether you are upgrading existing equipment or venturing for the first time in the world of automation, there are several things you need to consider.

Do your research.

Ask questions, ask questions, ask questions, repeat. Don’t ask your machinery sales rep, either; ask your peers. I am a member of the Cabinet Makers Association, and they are a great resource, including an online forum which is invaluable for these types of questions. Whatever you do, seek out people who have been there and done that. They may tell you what not to do, which sometimes is more meaningful than being told what you need to do.

Buy more than you need.

It’s important to plan for the future when you make this type of capital investment. You want your business to grow – that’s why you are buying the machine in the first place.  If that’s the case, then you should buy more machine that you currently need.  Obtaining additional horsepower now will save you the trouble of going through this process again in a few years.

Know the ancillary costs.

Your total spend will be a lot more than the sticker price of the machine and the install. During your research, find out what other costs are involved. This includes power requirements, air, dust, software, etc. The unexpected may still occur, but you can minimize the stress by preparing in advance.

Be prepared for downtime.

The install will take longer than promised. That’s a guarantee. Prepare for the worst case scenario, and hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Admittedly there will be delays, but you still need to keep your production going. If you are upgrading existing equipment, do not sell that machine until you are fully operational (for some time) with the new one. If you are buying your first machine, continue to produce as you have been, even though it may be slower than what you want to do with the new machine. Accomplishing some work is faster than not getting anything done.

Take advantage of training.

Be sure to do the necessary training to operate the machine, and document it. The idea is that you can then train others.  You only need one slot in the class, but then you can share what you learned with others in your company who will run the machine now or later. Also, if there are training updates, take advantage of those too. Incremental changes can really impact the machine’s efficiency, and you want to get the most bang for your buck.

Schedule preventive maintenance.

You can’t afford downtime, so arrange for preventive maintenance right way. Schedule when it’s convenient for you, instead of in a crisis when the machine goes down in the middle of an important project.  A small interruption now will save you a ton of time and money later.

To learn more, attend the IWF seminar “Buying that Big Machine”.  The session is presented by a panel of shop owners, including myself, who have been through this process and want to share with others what they learned and what they wish they had known.


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